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Cremains are the bone fragments from a cremated body which remain after the cremation process. “Cremains” is a portmanteau or blending which combines the words “cremated remains.” While commonly referred to as “ashes,” technically cremains are not ashes but rather mostly dry calcium phosphates with some various minor minerals such as salts of sodium and potassium, or more simply, bone matter. Since the cremation process takes place utilizing extreme temperatures upwards of 1600 °F, any true ash is completely incinerated.
Occasionally there are additional non-organic materials such as plates, screws, or pins from surgery, dental fillings, missed jewelry, or metal surgical implants such as hip replacements. These are removed by the crematorium staff after the cremation process by passing a magnet over the cremains. The remaining bone material then passes through a processor which grinds the remains into a fine powder. This powder, which is commonly mistaken for ash, is then placed into a plastic bag inside a temporary plastic or cardboard urn box and passed on to the funeral director or family of the decedent.
This is why most funeral professionals prefer to use the term “cremains” (or cremated remains) instead of the innacurate but popular misconception of “ashes.”